Emotional Work Internet Culture

Day 161 and Phone Calls

A meme came across one of my group chats yeh other day that my friend said contained “strong Julie energy.” My response was oh yeah “phone calls are violence” and promptly turned it into a tweet.

Obviously I’m leaning into another extremely online joke with “thing is violence” which made for a good viral moment. But I really do hate having phone calls on my calendar. Not everyone agrees with me. I heard a lot from folks who insist that the human connection of one to one phone calls is superior to the written word.

Honestly I call bullshit on this. It is some Luddite nonsense to insist that written communication platforms are inherently inferior to voice. We thought phone calls were dangerous and weird when they were invented.

Unless I’m speaking with an entrepreneur (or my mother) I try to encourage folks to communicate with me asynchronously. Voice communication is slow and lossy. It lets you ramble and insist that tone and human emotion are more crucial than you being a crisp thinker. Which is maybe true in certain situations. Emotions and tone and context are important. But it’s not a substitute for you being a shitty communicator.

I’m not going to waste 30 minutes on something that can be communicated in a few sentences if you just think ahead and collect your thoughts. Call me an asshole but it’s not worth me slowing down my day so I can listen to someone struggle to organize their point.

And I get it, folks want to think things through together in a group. You know how much that sucks if you are the one pulling all the weight in the call? A lot! It’s exhausting. Stop expecting other people to think for you. It’s a dick move. Honestly fuck that noise.

I’m not getting on a damn phone call until I’ve exhausted all over ways of communicating and organizing a topic. Only then is all this nuance and emotional context shit a worthwhile endeavor. Do your homework before you insist on scheduling a call. It will be more productive and take less time.


Day 160 and Starting with Money

The best articulation of why anyone gives a shit about currencies in crypto (as opposed to just focusing on bigger structural problems of macroeconomics) is that you need foundational layers to build a new economy. You need a currency before you can have an economy. Ryan Sean Adams at Bankless gave me an aha moment with this quote. You need money.

The bankless model is simple: you hold the majority of your crypto wealth in crypto money. Specifically crypto commodity money. Today that means ETH and BTC.

Wealth is different than money. And crypto wealth should be in crypto money. Like yes, we get it, assets get tokenized. Crypto folks are wild for tokens. But that’s more of a DeFi problem. Financialization has allowed us to buy so many cool kinds of financial products that we forget that shit like derivatives were invented by normal dudes who traded soybeans for a living in the 70s.

But we needed soybeans to be traded first. There is an order of operations to setting up an economy. That means a system where folks grow soybeans and sell them, or turn them into another product like oil, or sell their labor as an accountant to the oil company that buys the soybeans. Because we don’t trade soybeans for steak. We trade it for dollars and then we buy a steak to enjoy at home with our spouse and kids. Circle of life! Circle of trade.

So first things first (I’m the realist) we to understand that understand that currency is crucial to the functioning of but also the first step in an economy expanding. We need to read up a bit on the history of money. PBS has a NOVA series that is pretty comprehensive. If you like stories Thomas Levenson’s Money for Nothing is a not-actually-tall tale about how the scientific revolution lead to a financial revolution (plus it has boats). Or learn how Kublai Khan invented paper money which seemed even crazier than a digital currency at the time.

If we start with a digital currency who knows what we can build from there. Balaji believes (and I agree) that it’s the first step in forming a digital country. But money comes first.


Day 159 and Friction

Everyone has their mental models and super powers that make them unique. While I’ve written about my more specific skills like getting attention, one of my other super powers is a bit further down the stack.

I think I have a naturally immunity to the friction of inertia. The slow stickiness of life doesn’t seem to impact me as much as the average person. Generating momentum is my natural state. I guess this means my X-Men doppelgänger is the Juggernaut.

Juggernaut from X-Men: Last Stand saying “I’m the Juggernaut Bitch”

Startups suffer particularly from inertia around them. The world pushes back actively against changes. Think of inertia like eddies in the stream of linear time. You must get unstuck or you will circle forever alongside the stream, never getting anywhere while watching as others get ferried down the currents. That’s why I recommend to startups that they simply do whatever is necessary to generate momentum. Get the fuck out of the eddies of inertia.

When you are pushing against existing reality to make something new, you already need to significantly reduce friction just to get a shot on goal. You need to change opinions, learn new skills, bring together a team, work well together.

And that doesn’t even mean you will make the goal, even if all preparation work that goes right. All of that momentum you generated simply to have an opening. Yeah even then you can still fail. The market, your underdeveloped skills, your competitors, sheer dumb luck all have a chance to block your goal. That means you need to be undeterred by failure. You need to overcome friction consistently.

Overcome the inertia and the friction to keep taking more shots is your best chance. Probability likes your odds from five shots better than one.

Chronic Disease Emotional Work

Day 158 and The Mondays

I feel like Garfield but I don’t like Mondays. After two glorious days of reprieve, on Monday I restart the constant parade of medical appointments, biohacking activities and other habits and routines I maintain to keep my body healthy. And even with all that effort, my health is still bottom decile. The routine I lay out below can feel overwhelming with the amount of time it takes and yet if I don’t care of my body…well it won’t take care of me.

Garfield the grumpy cat falling out of his bed as he realizes it’s Monday

I woke up at 730 and made myself a breakfast of berries and homemade yogurt from raw milk. I used to be an intermittent faster but now I have to take medications with food so breakfast is back.

At 830 I read the news headlines and top articles from Bloomberg, New York Times, and the WSJ as well as listen to NPR’s morning edition. Then I need to do my physical therapy and stretching.

At 9 I go for an hour long walk. In order to keep inflammatory conditions under control, it’s recommended that I do at least an hour of low impact walking to keep limber. During my walk I will listen to more financial news and podcasts. Today I treated myself to Exit Scam by Aaron Lammer. Normally I listen to Odd Lots or something more specific to my corners of finance like Flirting with Models. I decide to go with Exit Scam as Aaron Lammer impressed me so much in Odd Lots a few weeks ago with his episode on yield farming.

At 10am I organize my supplements for the morning. I take Ray Kurzweil levels of stuff that is monitored by not one but two functional medicine doctors. This doesn’t include the slurry of powders I drink in water, just the nice easy pills.

Then I am hooked into a EEG for an experimental “brain training” protocol called dynamic neurofeedback. The best metaphor I’ve got is to defrag your mind and reorganize your pathways. It’s basically CBT with an EEG. The session lasts for 33 minutes I also sneak in a meditation during this time.

Electrodes hocked up to my head for an EEG as I do dynamic neurofeedback

11am means it’s time to lift weights. I can’t do much and I need long rest intervals but I did a full squat cycle.

1130 has me showering and doing doing cold therapy. Yes I stand under a freezing shower for 5 minutes and do Wim Hoff breathing. Somehow I also manage to wash my hair.

At noon I have a banh mi (the pork and short rib from Daikon are quite good) and finish an episode of Mythic Quest. It’s wonderful and I recommend you get Apple TV just for this and Ted Lasso. I needed the break to just hang with Alex and do nothing for a minute.

Finally at 1pm I am able to get some work done. Getting emails out, checking on deals, reading some pitch materials and checking in on portfolio companies. I should have a straight shot through to 3pm to work before therapy but my mother and I ended up on the phone.

3pm is a full hour with my therapist. Arguably the most important hour of the week, especially for getting my mind right for Tuesday’s productivity.

4pm I have a brief break to take more supplements before I go back for two hours of group therapy.

Yes you read that correctly. On Monday I have 3 hours of back to back therapy. What else can I say? I’m committed to my emotional growth. We do family systems work and group work is particularly helpful for seeing your reactive patterns and how they are or are not mirrored back. As much as I sometimes resent how much time I sink into this work I do believe it’s the best ROI on time. We repeat the patterns of our childhood unless we clear them.

Finally at 6pm l have time to do things that are not explicitly for my mental or physical health. So yeah I’ve got mixed feelings on Monday. I want to live life beyond treatments and working on myself. I wish I could live without meds, supplements, physical therapy, walking, lifting weights, meditation, and therapy. But I guess that is what Tuesday’s are for. Monday is just Monday. And yes I repeat some of those activities every single day.

Chronic Disease Emotional Work

Day 157 Brushing Your Teeth

I feel like I need a break from having daily obligations for a day or two (it was a big week) but I’m also a creator of routines and rhythm. When you’ve got a chronic disease you don’t get to skip stuff like your medication or healthy habits without some consequences.

One reason I don’t find myself burdened by writing something long form everyday is that I see it as a habit like taking vitamins, taking a daily walk or brushing my teeth. It’s just something you do.

But I can chose how much time I put into writing or how long I walk (though it seems prudent to let the electric toothbrush run it’s full 2 minute cycle). So I’m reminding myself today that it’s alright to keep today light. If you want something good to read I recommend the Thursday Style Problem.

Chronic Disease

Day 156 and Social Accommodations

One-on-one synchronous communication requires energy and commitment. If you have plenty of energy and few health problems maybe this isn’t intuitively obvious to you why it’s tiring for me. To understand I highly recommend the Spoonie theory of living with chronic disease. A Lupus patient Christine Miserando explains to a friend using “spoons” as a prop/metaphor.

So, she laid out a handful of spoons on the table and explained that the spoons symbolize all of a patient’s daily energy reserves. Every activity, no matter how thoughtless and automatic, depletes from the energy supply. Getting out of bed, showering, getting dressed, eating, and any number of mundane tasks threaten to deplete energy at any given time. When you run out of spoons, you can choose to borrow against the spoons of a future date, but there are consequences. When you deplete your spoons, you are bedridden. Unable to manage the simple activities of life.

I work with a limited set of “spoons” each day. If I manage my energy budget well you would never guess I’m any different than you. But I optimize my day around accommodating my firm energy budget realities. I think of it as a wheelchair or a crutch. It’s a tool that helps me extend my capacity. I can do more with less energy and thus I need fewer spoons.

One area that makes a huge difference is digital asynchronous communication. Written documents or presentations, text messages, email, Slacks, heck even voice memos are all great ways to reach me as long as you don’t expect an immediate response. Asynchronous communication means respond when I have the energy. I rarely feel overwhelmed by those as there isn’t a need to respond right that moment. I don’t have to use a spoon to get you a response. If you need FaceTime or a phone conversation then I have to work around your preferences (which might not be strictly necessary for the information it’s just what you happen to link) and then you are also asking me to prioritize your preferences over my limited energy banks. Which can feel disrespectful if you don’t suffer from strict energy budgets. You are asking me to take a double hit. Accommodating me makes me more likely to budget more energy and time on you in the future if you respect my energy now.

This means you may need to reach out more. If you expect a synchronous back and forth you may end up waiting on me. Please don’t wait on me to reach out and have energy & free time at the same time as you. You will wait a long time! Reach out and we will work it out asynchronous style.

This is why I love social media. It is easy way to connect people to what I am doing on my own tike frame I have extremely limited energy and capacity to express that one on one. If I had to I’d end up limiting my entire world to like 3 people. My energy for one to one communication is limited. As someone who is disabled and chronically ill, I feel lucky that I have access to technology that allows me to expand my capacity to connect and communicate. If I didn’t have these tools my world would be severely limited as each conversation and interaction I have takes significant resources.

Like a myriad of writers who have been sick before me (Walker Percy, Virginia Wolf to name a few) I use this tool to extend my life and influence beyond the bed in which I spend 12 hours a day. So please understand I cannot always communicate in real time or in person for everyone. It’s the highest energy usage thing I do. Let me use technology to expand my world beyond my bed. We will both get a lot more out of it and you will find that thanks to technology I can can as much done as you.


Day 155 and Momentum

Startups don’t really operate on logic, plans or “objectives and key results” to name and shame. Founders and executive teams get really good at planning and strategies only to have it all blow up in their faces. Generating momentum in spite of startups being incredibly resistant to planning is part of the trick.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the emotions that go into that “no plan survives contact with the enemy” reality of startup life. The past two days Alex and I have been enjoying a victory lap after the 1.8B acquisition of his former startup Stack Overflow. It’s a process of mixed emotions and shared experiences with other families that lived it with us.

But one central theme is that nothing changed in our skills, planning, insight or capabilities after we got the market validation. We didn’t suddenly get better and got rewarded overnight. Our plans got exploded like everyone else in startup land, over and over and over again. Till one day it was worth a bunch of money. Now everyone involved looks like a genius. But the reality is that the momentum of startups live a life and logic unto themselves. No one set an OKR for “billions” nor did they plan out a straight line from day 1 on acquiring customers consistently. No one planned out a ten year roadmap for creating enough value or revenue for a substantial exit. No one micromanaged shit for a decade. The momentum just worked itself out eventually.

And yes I’m using the Royal We here but mostly to make a point. Startups and their teams and the entire ecosystem around them are team efforts. Together we turn nebulously ideas into sketchy plans and eventually great things. Don’t get so wrapped up into the need to manage everything so closely.

A graph showing a bell curve distribution. The two outlier “make stuff”

The momentum of making stuff can and should eventually pull you into your goals. So don’t kid yourself all your numbers or plans do shit. Be the Jedi.

Internet Culture Startups

Day 154 and Mixed Feelings

I’ve been in a hazy “did that happen place” emotionally after the news that Stack Overflow, where my husband spent 8.5 years, sold for $1.8B. Obviously it’s a lot of money to just appear into our lives. It’s not the first exit for Alex Miller or me. I’ve had 2 acquisitions for companies I have founded & he’s had an IPO for a company he was early to join. I also lived through multiple exits, financings IPOs & bankruptcies as a kid as I’m the child of a startup family. So why does this hit different?

I think part of it is that our other wins tended to come from “faster” companies. My first acquisition came within 2 years of founding. It wasn’t a lot of money but let me pay off student debt & get more stable. Alex was with Yext for a comparably shorter period and when it IPO’d he’d long ago left for Stack Overflow. And that was only a win because he was lucky enough to be able to borrow money to exercise his Yext options or it would have meant nothing. That happens a lot to early stage employees. They cannot afford to exercise and get nothing when a big exit happens. It happened to me when the company that bought mine exited to someone even bigger. I couldn’t afford to exercise. I never had the heart to calculate how much I would have made.

We’ve had secondaries over the years. Sometimes equity gets taken off the table in later stages financings and it benefits early employees. Those changed our calculus a lot when it happened to us. We put together a financial plan and a future as a family with our startup earnings. We made decisions based on whose turn it was to risk & who to run downside. Being a startup spouse means a constantly balancing act of supporting years of low salaries, long hours and stress. And while it’s not easy to be the wife of an early stage employee it’s probably even harder to be the husband of a founder. Startup families live through a lot together.

Stack Overflow was “the” company in many ways for Alex where he spent the better part of a decade and the majority of our marriage working to build the company up. He was employee 32 when he joined as chief of staff. When he left it was over 300 employees and he was the GM of the SaaS business.

When he left Stack we didn’t expect a payday beyond what salary he had earned and perhaps a bit of secondaries. He’d done good work and built amazing things but when you leave you don’t want have the emotional capacity to think about things like big acquisitions or IPOs. When Alex left Stack it was a deeply emotional process for us. A lot of therapy for both of us. Because startups aren’t just the person it is their family that consents as well to these long journeys. Remember that every executive team member or founder has a family that will live through this startup experience too.

After 8 years I knew Alex needed a change. He had given Stack his all. His absolute best. But leaving was hard. In order to leave a company where you invested your whole self (and your family’s) you have to come to terms with how you feel. We cried. We worried. But Alex made the choice. And we didn’t look back. It’s too painful in some ways. You love your startup

You keep in touch with everyone. Alex remains friends with the entire team. We share hobbies & interests and a million group texts with topics as varied as hydroponic tomatoes m, our crypto portfolios and hunting season. We stay at each other’s homes. The bond is deep in startup teams.

Given that bond it’s almost funny how when you leave your imagination on big outcomes can stop. The thing you dedicated yourself to for years is now growing and thriving without you. It never leaves you even if you need some distance.

When we got the call the number was overwhelming. The distance we had created suddenly evaporated. Alex burst into my room where I was meditating and told me the strike pierce. We did some calculations. We checked them. It couldn’t be? It was. The startup had finally delivered the check. We’d done it. Another startup made it.

I want people to know that this kind of largess is mostly random. Everyone works hard in Silicon Valley. Startups are a choice & a state of mind and those of us that chose to do it willingly go into ideas doomed to failure. Or meant for the stars. And it can feel like a crap shoot. Idiots get enormous paydays and brilliant innovators barely make enough to scrape by. The meritocracy isn’t as real as we think. This isn’t to suggest that the Stack Overflow team doesn’t deserve every penny. They do. We earned the payout. The bad years were hard. Miserable. But everyone believed in the community & the power of software developers. But also no one earns these big paydays. It’s a gift. And we are grateful for it.

Emotional Work Startups

Day 153 and Startup Families

I’ve worked my entire career in startups. I love it. But the work barely compares to being a member of a startup family. My entire life has been lived, literally from the day I was born, in the ecosystem of families that make startups come to life.

I was “in it” from conception and all my success and traumas are in some way tied back to that luck. And I became a startup founder and eventually a startup wife. This post is about what it’s like to live in perpetual uncertainty of creation with the occasional bout of life changing money.

For everyone that has a payday that changed their lives forever, chances are they have spent decades in the shadow of that system of building, scaling, and selling companies. The paydays are sporadic, completely dependent on luck and often extremely unfair. Most of the time the early team sees nothing. I’ve personally had an exit where I got nothing. I’ve had an exit where I couldn’t afford to exercise my options so when the company that bought mine exited I didn’t see a dime. So I know how fundamentally random startup life can be. How unfair it can feel. Because today it is our turn to be the beneficiary of the unwarranted success.

My husband Alex’s long time home Stack Overflow, sold for 1.8B dollars today. And yes we are one of the 61 families that will see more than a million dollars from it. But it’s not all joyful excitement in our house. Because it’s not about not just about money. It never has been. In my family it’s always been about belief. And it’s really hard to reconcile the many competing emotions that come with a liquidity event. It’s the culmination of much work and time from everyone.

My father proudly reminds me that when I was born, he didn’t have a job as he was pitching an education startup. What a blessing to have the energy of one’s life be aligned with risk from the start. And also what a curse. My family had incredible boom years where money wasn’t a concern coupled with devastating financial and emotional ruin as companies went to zero and markets crashed. My father sacrificed so much for his dreams. He saw the value of software and took his wife and children to the promised land of Silicon Valley. And oh it was glorious. And oh how it hurt.

I have fond memories of Comdex, elaborate company cruises and board meetings during “take your daughter to work day.” I also remember my father not being there for birthdays, for dinner, for milestones because he was busy building the future. I don’t remember my parents getting divorced, because I suppressed the memories. Family trauma can be like that. The good and the bad exist at the same time. When my father went bankrupt in the Web 1 crash, I was so angry at him for not being more careful, I didn’t speak to him for years. And then I made the choice to become a founder myself. Despite my fury and sadness and hurt I too decided to live my father’s path. And then I married a man who walks it too. I guess the Bojack Horseman joke got it right.

You inherit your parents’ trauma but will never fully understand it. Haha the cop is a cat.

The day you get news you made life changing money is bittersweet because all the trauma of being a startup family member catch’s you to you. You remember the sacrifice of your whole family going back years. The long nights and missed time together. The choices to prioritize the company over your family. In our case 10 years but of course for me it’s been my entire life.

The entirety of my marriage with Alex and my entire relationship with him before was spent at Stack Overflow. I’ve seen the hard work and the pride. I’ve also seen the exhaustion and the agony when something went badly wrong. The hurt when teammates left and the fear of leaving yourself eventually. People grow up together at startups. Other more practical logistics show that not everyone wins. The hard decisions you make when it’s time to leave and you cannot afford to exercise your options are a unique pain. We just three weeks ago sold something in secondaries to afford the taxes to exercise ours. That’s timing and dumb luck. Almost absurdly so. We could easily not be in the position we are. Exits are the end goal and yet not everyone gets to make it despite equal sacrifices. It’s all random and no one deserves any of it. But it changes your life if it does happen.

Finance Startups

Day 152 and Running The Play

I’m going to put $5,000 into liquidity mining and yield farming to fuck around and, hopefully, find out.

If the last year has been about laying out the primitives of decentralized finance, this summer is going to be the Layer 2 land grab and I need to learn how to stake some claims. I don’t have a clue if it is going to work but I need to start learning how to play the game by tossing the ball around. I doubt I’m going to be whatever the equivalent of a professional player but I want to learn some muscle memory. You can’t very well buy an NFL team without having ever handled a football can you? Yes I am torturing a metaphor.

On a personal psychological note, I wanted to start with a $1,000 but then I realized the difference between losing $1,000 and $5,000 isn’t material to me (which blows my mind but such is the compounded benefit of my various privileges). However, the difference between 10xing $1,000 to $10,000 and 10xing $5,000 to $50,000 is extremely material to me. $50,000 is a a material seed stage check for a company that I may want to place a long bet on.

That is roughly the cost of my medical care for an entire year (not including drugs which roughly doubles it). That is a down payment on a parcel of land to develop over the coming decades. This is a moment to learn and leverage for the benefit of my future self and family if shit goes well. And if it doesn’t no big deal. The real money is better managed than me deciding I want to toss around a ball

My Chaos thesis says it’s time to run the play on the future more generally. It’s hard to argue that I can make good puts on a chaotic future without fully experiencing some of it myself in visceral fashion. I fully expect to lose all of it trying to liquidity mine and yield farm on my own but if I don’t well then I’ve proved something to myself about the future of capital.

I need to remind myself that this isn’t representative of how I allocate capital in a diversified portfolio to preserve my future security nor is it how I’d allocate capital even in a seed stage private venture stage portfolio. But it is a worthwhile amount to put on a 100% risk basis to learn how the fuck the future of capital allocation might work.

Honestly $5,000 is a pretty cheap tuition for a fancy credentialed college class so this seems like a good deal. I will write my way through the learnings and call it an independent study.